IN THE final Members’ debate of the Parliamentary term, I used the opportunity to lead a debate on the recent report by the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, which detailed Professor Alston’s investigation into the impact of austerity and Universal Credit on communities across the UK.

His findings represent a deeply shocking indictment of the Tory Party’s appalling record in Government.

A generation of austerity and the continued rollout of the fundamentally flawed Universal Credit has left 14 million people, some one fifth of the population, living in poverty.

Over 1.5 million people live in destitution. And this has been welcomed by the ministers responsible as an “almost unmitigated success”.

During the debate, I raised the way that both austerity and Universal Credit have impacted communities in my constituency of Clackmannanshire and Dunblane.

Latest figures from Clackmannanshire Council show that 85 per cent of Universal Credit claimants in council accommodation are in arrears, totalling over half a million pounds.

Despite doing all that is required of them, claimants end up being 6-8 weeks in arrears before the Department of Work and Pensions make any rent payments – a matter that is entirely out with their control.

Last September, I hosted a Universal Credit summit in Alloa and invited local politicians, councillors and third sector organisations. Both local Tory MPs declined to attend and it became apparent why.

The evidence presented by all organisations present was clear: the Tory’s flagship policy oversees an unnecessary five week payment delay that sends people into spiralling debt, a cruel and inhumane sanction system that pushes vulnerable people to the brink and a toxic legacy of rising foodbank use.

The summit was attended by the SNPs DWP spokesperson, Neil Gray MP, who took what he heard and fed it back.

It is completely indefensible for the Tories to try to pass this off as a legitimate social security system, when it provides nothing of the sort. It is a system that sanctions, immiserates and impoverishes the vulnerable. And no number of local ‘action’ groups will change that.

The only way to change the current situation is for Tory MPs stand up for their constituents and join the SNP in highlighting the systems failures in the House of Commons.

The role of Government is to changes peoples’ lives for the better. The SNP’s recently announced Scottish Child Payment has the potential to do just that.

Providing low income families with £10 a week for every child under 16, it has been described by poverty charities as a “game changer”.

Estimated to lift 30,000 children out of poverty by 2024, the Payment is part of the Scottish Government’s ambitious child poverty targets and will make a huge difference to the 27 per cent of children in Clackmannanshire who live in poverty.